Health & Fatness

As featured in Sunday Express Magazine – Sunday 29th August 2010

Every time you open a newspaper or magazine or switch on the news lately, inevitably you will find something about obesity.  It is reported that the UK has the highest obesity rates in the world and it seems that we are always being nagged about our size.

However, it is not just a case of looking at someone and deciding that that person is unfit just because they are not stick thin.

Professor Steven N Blair, a specialist in Exercise Science from the University of South Carolina, monitored the health of over 13,000 men during a 12 year period. Following a fitness test on a treadmill, measuring their BMI (Body Mass Index) and measuring their waist and body fat, Professor Blair discovered that some obese men outperformed their slimmer peers.

He also found that some of those obese men who scored a higher fitness level, were at no greater risk of heart disease than the men of normal weight. Being fat doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unfit or that you are at greater risk of other diseases.

Health and fitness are not the same; it is possible to be fat and healthy or slim and unhealthy. Take for instance the case of Olympic Rowing Medalist, Steve Redgrave, who suffers from Type 1 Diabetes.  Clearly, Steve Redgrave is a very fit man who has pushed his body to the limit to stay that way and this has obviously helped him to manage his illness better.

By keeping fit, fat people are less likely to die prematurely of heart disease but they may still die of cancers related to obesity.  Over 9,000 obese people die a premature death each year in the UK and although, as demonstrated by Professor Steve Blairs findings, you can be healthy and fat, it is certainly in our best interests to watch our weight and keep our body fat and BMI within the acceptable guidelines.

Dr Catherine Spencer-Smith’s top fitness tips (whatever your weight)

Inactive and slim or overweight

  • Ask your GP to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels to rule out problems such as Diabetes. Very often your Go can help you with a diet or an exercise plan.
  • A 10% weight loss can have enormous benefits but take it slowly and set yourself goals to keep focused
  • Find an activity that you actually enjoy. There’s no point in starting something you hate just to drop out after a couple of sessions.
  • Get together with a friend to exercise, whether it be walking or swimming or joining a local step class. It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as you find something to do regularly.
  • Try to set aside 4 sessions a week gradually increasing them to between 30 – 60 minutes each session.
  • Build up your exercise slowly and aim for short bursts of energy; don’t expect to be able to do anything too strenuous to start with.
  • If you find that you get out of breath just walking, try swimming or aqua aerobics where the water will support your weight and make it a lot easier.

Whatever your weight, be it slim or fat, everyone will benefit from some exercise no matter how little to start with.  It won’t take long before you start to feel fitter and happier and don’t forget, it could help towards a longer healthier life – something we all want.